101st candidates speak to chamber members

The three Republican candidates for the 101st House district wholeheartedly agree on one thing: the idea of term limits.

Dan Caulkins, Todd Henricks and Randy Keith each had five minutes to state their case at the Monticello Chamber of Commerce meeting Feb. 15, and all said if elected they would not have open-ended careers in the Illinois House.

Henricks and Keith said they would not serve more than four years (two terms), and Caulkins six (three terms).

Henricks would also like to change state law to limit legislators to a total of 12 years in the Illinois House and Senate, noting the General Assembly retirement system encourages long-term legislators.

“You get a higher percentage of retirement pension the longer you serve in office. Folks, that’s just wrong,” he said. “That’s the whole opposite effect of how Thomas Jefferson envisioned this country of a citizen statesman.

“I think 12 years combined between the House and the Senate would be more than enough for anyone in our state legislature,” added Henricks.

Keith noted he had been a problem solver as the current Piatt County board chairman, and wants to take that aptitude to Springfield.

“The biggest problem in Springfield is we don’t fix anything,” he said. “We have to fix things here on the county board. If something breaks we fix it. There’s no kick it down the road.”

If elected, his plan would be to “get out and meet all 117 of the reps. I will figure out quickly the ones I can work and play well with and which ones I can’t.

“What we need to get is 15 to 16 to 18 together – I don’t care what party their with – then they have to listen to us,” added Keith.

Caulkins agreed with that sentiment, noting there will be several new legislators in Springfield next year due to general assembly retirements, like Bill Mitchell in the 101st District.

A 22-year member of the military and former owner of assisted living facilities, he agreed “Illinois is on the wrong path.”

He pointed out that Illinois is losing population to surrounding states, but that the current response from Springfield is “higher taxes, more spending and we’re deeper in debt. I’m mad as hell about that. But I have the experience and I have the enthusiasm to tackle these problems,” said Caulkins, who also served on the Decatur city council for four years.

If elected, Caulkins also said he would take no salary or benefits while serving in the statehouse.

Information on the Monticello school district’s $29.8 million building referendum was also presented. School board member Kate Himes explained the project, which will result in new science labs for the current high school, 14 new classrooms at Washington Elementary, a new gymnasium that will be used by elementary school students during the day and high school athletes for after-school practices and evening competitions, and a general remodel of the 1924 high school.

A recruiter for Caterpillar, Himes said when interviewing applicants they often point to a particular event or teacher that helped set them on their career path.

“It’s always about a STEM experience, a science experiment, something that really blew their mind and made them want to go on and pursue their bachelor’s degree, and sometimes their master’s degree,” she said.

“There’s no question we have the teachers to do that,” she added. “but the STEM labs are personally why I personally support the referendum that we have now.”

A two-story addition to the east side of the current high school is in the plan, which would add nine science classrooms and labs. In addition, the “pit gym” would be converted into a pair of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) labs.

School superintendent Vic Zimmerman was asked if updated facilities would make recruitment of staff and families to the district easier.

“Like it or not, we’re competing with all the towns around us, so if someone gets transferred to central Illinois and they’re working in Champaign or Decatur or Champaign-Urbana, they’re shopping around schools. They’re going to Mahomet, they’re going to St. Joe, Mt. Zion, Maroa, and all the schools around us, and they’re coming to Monticello. Families and teachers looking for jobs, so we need to make sure our facilities are up to date as they could possibly be so we don’t lost out on those families or teachers,” said Zimmerman.

“So I think it does make a huge difference when it comes to being able to recruit teachers and families,” he added.

Chamber member Scott Burnsmier also felt school facilities had an impact on the local economy.

“What happens on Sage Drive (where the high school is located) drives Monticello,” he said.

Additonal information on the candidates and referendum question are available at:

Dan Caulkins: http://www.dancaulkins.com

Todd Henricks: https://www.toddforrep101.com

Randy Keith: http://www.voterandykeith.com

Referendum: www.sages.us/ref2018



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